Office Manager of the University of Toronto Engineering Society
May 30, 1999|
|Occupation||Race car driver, automotive journalist, bookkeeper|
|Known for||Office manager, friend of the Engineering Society, pioneering female race car driver and leading Canadian automotive journalist|
Julie Wilkinson (1961-1999) was the Engineering Society's book-keeper, administrator, and business manager for 11 years until her untimely death in 1999. She was known for her hard work and dedication in improving the operation and management of the Engineering Society. While she was employed at the Engineering Society, she worked part time as an automotive journalist for the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. Her memory lives on through the Julie Wilkinson Memorial Scholarship, the Julie Wilkinson Memorial Common Room in the Sandford Fleming Building, and the pink hardhat dedicated to her memory in the Engineering Society office.
Julie attended the Vancouver Crofton House school in her childhood.
Race car driver
In her 20s, Julie was a professional race car driver who drove in various circuits in North America. Around 1987, she raced in the CASC Honda/Michelin Challenge Series based in the Vancouver area, where she raced a Honda Civic. Her best finish in that series was fifth, at Westwood. She parlayed that success into further competition. In 1988, she entered the CASC Player's/GM Motorsport Series driving Chevrolet Camaros, as a team-mate to Kat Teasdale (who herself later made it into several NASCAR races). Julie drove in the East Division, sponsored by Bob Johnston Chev-Olds Ltd., TNT, Kwikasair Comet and Sony. In 1990 she raced in the inaugural season of the World Challenge touring car series, in a Subaru. She continued for several years through the early 1990s in this series. She had also been known to race Porsches and IROC Z-28's competitively in Canada.
Julie left racing due to health problems and began working for the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) as a test driver and columnist on a part time basis. She excelled as a writer and quickly gained a reputation as one of Canada's leading automotive journalists. In 1991, she was the runner-up for the AJAC Journalist of the Year award for her work in CarGuide Magazine. She also wrote as a guest journalist for the Toronto Star. Eventually, she became the treasurer of AJAC.
Since Julie's job as a writer was not sufficient as a full time job, she responded to an ad in the newspaper looking for a bookkeeper for the University of Toronto Engineering Society. She quickly learned the role and became an integral part of the Engineering Society. Her contributions were numerous, including the introduction of textbook and clothing sales at Engineering Stores and the installation of a debit card machine. Julie was often relied on for answers to obscure questions relating to university bureaucracy and often intervened to get students out of a pinch.
Julie was known as a friendly and supportive person to everyone she knew. Engineering students were grateful for her help as an office manager, but also as a friend. She was even known to contribute her writing skills and sense of humour to the Toike Oike. Her part-time job as a test driver and car reviewer was also much remembered by the students of the Engineering Society, who regularly came into possession of new high-end cars such as Porsches, on campus. On one occasion, she 'lent' a Hummer to the Chief Attiliator so that the Cannon Guard could arrive at the University of Toronto's President's Dinner in style.
For her dedication and support, she was nicknamed "God" by the students at Skule. It is rumoured that she was inducted into the Brute Force Committee, as the Minister of Godly Intervention.
In the late 1990s, Julie decided to return to school part-time to pursue a degree in Industrial Engineering. She was slated to graduate in June 2001, before her untimely death.
Julie Wilkinson died suddenly on May 30, 1999 due to a blood disorder. She was much missed by the engineering community as well as the automotive community.
After her death, the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering officially renamed the Engineering Society Office (then located in the south-east corner of the Sandford Fleming Building basement, where the Engineering Communications Office is presently located), where Julie spent much of her time, as the Julie Wilkinson Memorial Common Room. At the memorial for Julie held by the Faculty, a tree (likely a Mulberry) was planted outside the southeast entrance to the Sandford Fleming Building. Engineering students installed a concrete pillar in front of the tree and placed a bronze plaque with her name engraved on top of the pillar. The pillar and tree were likely removed when the front yard of Sandford Fleming was redone by the university in the late 1990s or early 2000s.
To commemorate Julie's achievements and legacy in motorsport and automotive journalism, AJAC launched the Julie Wilkinson Motorsport Journalism Award for Excellence in Journalism after her death in 1999, with a sponsorship from Bridgestone Canada Inc. The award is given to one Canadian motorsport journalist each year at an annual dinner held by AJAC and is considered one of the most prestigious awards for Canadian automotive writers.